Monday, August 29, 2011

Public figures exposed

So Anna Hazare is done with his initial part of the crusade -jolting the conscience of middle India with the C-word. Much has been said about the septuagenarian’s hunger strike and his demands in the last couple of weeks that another ‘Anna- tomy’ is not warranted. At least not until it sets off a precedent.
The disturbing fact that emerged of the whole movement is the question of freedom of speech in democratic India - how much is too much?  Former IPS officer and a personality whom girls of two generations have come to look up to is now popular for her ‘ghunghat act’ at the Ramlila maidan on the eleventh day of the crusade. She mocked the government, slandered politicians and called her ‘full-throttled’ act a ‘game-changer’ all the while claiming it was against her ‘grain’ nevertheless.
Veteran actor Om Puri will be in the hot seat if parliamentarians have their way. They have moved a privilege motion against him for calling them ‘uneducated and incompetent’. The actor, however, has unconditionally apologised for his words, thereafter.
The common excuse by both public figures is they were emotionally charged and were carried away by the angst of the people. They were both ‘talking in context’ – it was ‘never meant to hurt anyone’.
Even a murder is committed in the spur of the moment – but the doer a criminal!
What do we call public figures who choose to lose their ethics amid people power?  An actor need not necessarily have faced protests and the masses in such numbers, so when Om Puri said, “I was moved by seeing the frail old man whose health was a concern,” his morality is at least intact.
But what’s with Kiran Bedi – the ex-IPS cop, who taught the inmates of Tihar how to conduct themselves in life? Was her bowl of wisdom so frugal that she distributed it all among the prisoners? The goodwill she achieved for her daring performance in uniform is tarnished. It’s time she invested in a ghunghat! And her gall to defend her act in the media is nothing short of shamelessness.
That brings us to the role of media in the crusade. Anna called it the ‘second independence fight’ and the media echoed it louder. Anna termed government dealing as non-transparent and the media zoomed its lense closer. Anchors of all popular TV channels conducted talk shows and hosted debates among both Anna supporters and members of the government, with clear questions and exclamations promoting the Anna Team. Has media forgotten its role?
The visual media revolution in India seems to have given journalists the right to prosecute the accused even before the court of law decides on their fate. With popular figures gaining notoriety in various scams and cases, channels have begun pushing their own moral limits to see their TRP ratings withstand the competition. All’s fair in the game of survival! So far it concerned only individuals and smaller groups. But when the majority of the nation erupted in unison, the media ought to have looked up its ethical roster. Their TRP was anyways taken care of by the secular middle class.

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